"Thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets of Manhattan on June 27, 2021 to participate on the Reclaim Pride Coalition's third annual Queer Liberation March, where no police, politicians or corporations were allowed to participate." (Photo and caption by Erik McGregor)
I remember the last big formal Heritage of Pride March a few years ago.
We waited like five hours to start, the activists in the back of the parade, behind the corporate sponsors.
And we started talking about doing this another way.
Three years later, HOP is not even having a corporate parade.
Everyone wants to be in the queer liberation march.
No one’s free till everyone’s free.
More and more queer youth, movements dovetailing from Black Lives Matters to AIDS and healthcare and reproductive autonomy to ethical promiscuity and sexual freedom and gay liberation, human liberation.
More and more young people, people of color seemed to be on hand, marching, less and less police, less barricades separating participants from spectators.
Arriving at Bryant Park, I run into Jonathan Ned Katz, the queer historian and author of
the Invention of Heterosexuality, a funny and iconic text; writes Katz:
“I had dinner with my father last night, and made a classic Freudian slip. I meant to say, “Please pass the salt,” but it came out, “You prick, you ruined my childhood.”
Schles, author of Invisible City, ran into us on the street.
Turning around, I stumble into Emily Bass, whose book To End a Plague: America’s Fight to End AIDS in Africa, will be released on July 6th. We talk about her history of global aids activism picking up where Sarah Schulman’s luminous oral history of ACT UP stops.
The histories of the city and its activists are always shifting and changing.
Katz and I continued walking and talking about queer
history and activism.
That was where I worked, he said, pointing up to a window on 41st Street. During the first liberation march in 1970, he was concerned his employers would see him on the march. While he was more philosophically oriented toward the Gay Liberation Front’s revolutionary politics, he worked with Gay Activist Alliance during those years. Their focused efforts seemed more effective. But the multi-issue politics espoused by Gay Liberation Front, oppression is a tree with many branches, informed current conversations about intersectionality.
Lately, he has been working on a new book, The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams, a striking radical history of an anarchist and lesbian who lived in the West Village who created a speakeasy on McDougal Street.
On we marched downtown, healthcare and sexual liberation and abolition activists mixing and sharing space.
More and more activists of color seemed to be on hand.
For many this was their first pride march.
They helped make it more and more open, more abundant.
Afterall, everyone wants that freedom high.
Arriving at 7th and Christopher Street, across from the Stonewall Inn, for a day we were all feeling it.
No police, no barricades, just bodies in space and history.
A few poems open the space:
A PRAYER OF QUEER THANKSGIVING
I sing praises to this little boy, no more than seven or eight,
Who just pranced right up to me and interlaced his own tiny, nail-polished fingers
With my own, and cried out, “Twins!”
I sing praises to his choice of glittery green,
Which perfectly complements my shimmery purple.
I sing praises to his guts, his gumption, his presumption
That I am a friend, a familiar, a fellow fairy — family —
Even though we’ve never met.
I sing praises to the street that brings us together
And to the fabulous whomever he, she, they will become.
I sing praises to the well-coiffed mother, bubbling over and teary-eyed,
As she exclaims, “He saw you all the way across the street and just had to say, ‘Hello.’”
I sing praises to the baseball-capped father, looking on with quiet pride,
As he asks, “Do you paint yourself or do you have them professionally done?”
I sing praises to the grandma and the grandpa, holding hands and smiling wide,
As they look one another in the eye and celebrate what their love has made.
I sing praises to the dozens of witnesses to this family reunion,
The ones who hurry by and the ones who slow down,
The ones who look up from their phones to watch history being made,
The ones who set aside their cynicism for one, brief, shining moment,
So they can join in the smiles,
Join in the connection,
As I squeeze the tiny fingers of this seven-or-eight-year-old unicorn and proclaim: “Twins!”
And I sing praises to the cloud of invisible witnesses that surrounds us,
And in the singing and the praising, I feel them appear around us.
This is fantasy, but this is real.
This is fantasy, but fantasy is what painted our nails in the first place.
I see Marsha, brick in hand, ready to take no shit,
And Sylvia, microphone primed, ready to take us to task.
I see Christine, done up and glamorous, no hair out of place,
And I hear Marlene and Sylvester and David, crooning as Billy tickles the ivories.
I see Langston and June and Lorraine and James and Oscar, scribbling away,
As José and Eve and Michel critique and queer and complicate.
I hear Divine and Candy and Jackie and Andy and Hibiscus whispering,
“Don’t be so serious. Let this just be the silly thing it is.”
I feel the breeze as Alvin twirls by,
And I feel the squeeze as Alan computes the logic of it all.
I see Harvey and Audre and Michael and Harry,
And Gilbert and Larry and Edie and Jane and Dick,
Satisfied and still nudging, content and continuing to fight.
I hear Leonard and Howard composing a hit,
As Michael choreographs a group number,
And Frida lines us all up for what will surely be a kooky portrait for the ages.
I feel the forces, see the faces of the famous and the foreign,
And the cloud opens wider to reveal our mess of martyrs.
I see Matthew and Brandon and Roxana and Joan,
I see faces I’ve never seen before,
I hear names I’ve never known,
I hear voices I’ve never heard before, shouting, “Twins! Twins! Twins!”
We are nothing alike and we are everything alike,
We are on the street together and we are more than worlds apart.
We are a rainbow and we are a cloud,
Born of color and tears, of triumph and tragedy,
Feeding the arc of a moral universe that has trampled us,
Even as we decorate the damn thing and teach it how to bend.
We are serious and sassy, glittery and grim,
Furious and filled with fear that fools itself into fabulosity.
We are everything I describe and nothing I describe.
We are everything I see and so much I do not see.
We can pick out one another on the street,
And we can be strangers in the same parade.
We are more than fits inside our ever-expanding initials,
And we are only as much as we allow ourselves to be.
We are a rainbow and we are a cloud,
Bending and bursting, beautiful and terrifying.
And I sing praises to the rainbow and I sing praises to the cloud.
I sing praises to the colorful progress,
And I sing praises to the storm that shouts, “Progress is a myth.
Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.”
I sing praises to the Universe that we are,
To the rainbow that we’ve been, to the cloud we will all become,
And I feel that word fizzing up inside me, though it often frightens more than frees:
I sing praises to this family
That claims me for who I am and gently shoves me into who I can become.
I sing praises to the saints who don’t want to be saints,
To the martyrs and the heroes who ask for none of the notoriety.
I sing praises to the bloodless ties that keep us afloat until the blood ties catch up.
I sing praises to the clouds that cry out, “Families belong together,”
And know that it means so much more than what some want it to mean.
I sing praises to this fleeting moment on the street,
A moment that begins between two nail-polished people,
And then prisms out, extending the rainbow, creating the cloud.
We are twins and we are nothing alike.
We are seeking a tribe and we are extending the tribe.
We have so much to teach and we have so much to learn.
We have eternal praises to sing and we have eternal thanks to give.
Our greatest gift is the light of our color and the salt of our tears,
As we recognize one another like children on the busy street and insist on saying,
“Hello. I see you. I feel this between us and I can’t quite explain it.”
I sing praises to our gift of family recognition,
And until all families bend to the love of difference,
Until this country bends to love of family,
I sing praises to this growing familial cloud,
Rainbow saints painting paths for their yearning children,
And I pray not with my own hands clasped together,
But with my polished fingers interlaced with any other child I can recognize.
Today I march to liberate love, desire, and FUCKING
To eliminate undue, excessive, ridiculous over-policing of bodies, of genitals, of SEX
Top, bottom, or vers
Dom, sub, or switch
Voyeur, exhibitionist, or all of the above
May you get your freak on today
May your sex be messy and imperfect
With just yourself, just that special one, or a whole room/dungeon filled with unspecial someones
Oral, vaginal, anal, or just manual
Hell- nasal and aural
Get all the holes involved
Tall, short, big, or little
Whether you have hair just there, everywhere or no where
Young, old, of any race, of any gender, of any physical ability
May you get in touch with your inner piece of ass today
Toys, gear, ropes, and paddles
Stretch, stroke, spank, and sound if the feeling moves you
If it makes you feel alive
Fantasize, fetishize, eroticize
Turn complex feelings and imagination- even trauma- into sexual healing
So long as you and your partners have consented,
It doesn’t need to be PC
So Gen Z- get ready to feel triggered
Evangelicals- wear your best pearls so you can clutch them
Respectability Gays- look nervously to see what the straight people might think
Because Pride isn’t meant to be safe, isn’t meant to be chaste, isn’t meant to be palatable
It has always been about pushing boundaries on sex, on gender, on love
So please check your assimilation and privilege at the door
And have a FUCKING great time today everybody
WHAT: 3rd Annual Queer Liberation March
WHEN: Sunday, June 27; 2:30 p.m. Gather, 3 p.m. Step-Off
WHERE: Bryant Park at W. 41st and 6th Ave.
DIRECTIONS: B, D, F, M to 42nd St. Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
The Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) will take to the streets on Sunday, June 27th to stage the third annual Queer Liberation March. As in 2019 and 2020, this is a People’s March with no regimented contingents, no corporate sponsors, and no NYPD control over decision making or uniformed police marching. The Queer Liberation March revives the goals and spirit of the original Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970, born out of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising: social justice, freedom, and access for all!
Over the last year, the larger Queer and Trans communities have endured extraordinary challenges and difficulties brought on by the pandemic and its economic fallout, continued violent attacks committed by the NYPD on peaceful protesters, murders of Black Trans people, and the public expressions of anti-Trans bigotry and racism by alleged members of our communities, among many other issues of importance to our intersectional coalition.
As with the 2020 Queer Liberation March For Black Lives and Against Police Brutality, Reclaim Pride organizers will encourage marchers to wear masks and employ risk reduction strategies. Masks and sanitizer will also be provided at the gathering site and along the March route to keep this a safe event. Spare wheelchairs will also be ready along the March route to be utilized as needed. We pledge to make the March as accessible as possible: including ASL interpretation for our deaf people’s contingent & the accompanying Livestream. Attention is being paid to accessible subway stations near the gathering spot and end points, and street medics and marshals being positioned throughout the March.